"W E HAVE MET THE
ENEMY AND HE IS US ."
Advancing the conversation on the future of the
communication profession.

Neil Gr...
Copyright © 2013 by Neil Griffiths & Deborah Hinton
CONTENTS
1

EXECUTIVE OVERVIEW

2

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

3

INTRODUCTION

4

PURPOSE, METHOD AND FINDINGS

8

CONCLUSIONS

11
...
EXECUTIVE OVERVIEW
Our survey of over 200 communication professionals digs deeper into the findings
from our earlier repor...
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Our thanks to the survey participants for sharing their thinking about the current state of
and future po...
INTRODUCTION
When we reported on our 2012 research findings in Communication World [July 2013], we
knew communication prof...
PURPOSE, METHOD AND FINDINGS
The purpose of our survey was to get a deeper understanding of the four leadership
characteri...
the function at 3.89 and individual professionals say that they are strongest here at
4.30.
4. Collaborative and facilitat...
•

Communication programs need to include more business courses; and more
integrated, interdisciplinary and strategic thin...
The individual. Individual professionals say they need Understanding and Will [36%] and
Other [17%]. In the open field com...
CONCLUSIONS
We believe our findings are helping us get closer to discovering what we, as individual
communication professi...
Questions for individual communication professionals:
What can you do to ensure more leadership from your function? What c...
So, where to from here?
We started this journey believing that there’s an important opportunity for communication
professi...
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
The authors are communication professionals who are passionate and curious about what
communication prof...
APPENDIX 1 – BACKGROUND & CONTEXT
For those of you who haven’t been part of our journey until now, here’s a little backgro...
APPENDIX 2 - THE SURVEY: INTRODUCTION, QUESTIONS
AND RESULTS
INTRODUCTION
This survey is intended to dig a little deeper i...
APPENDIX 3 – RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
The survey opened and we began promotion in June 2013 and remained open for four weeks.
...
APPENDIX 4 – ARE THE RESULTS BIASED?
By Michael Hinton, MA, Managing Director, Minerva’s Owl Consulting Economists
The mai...
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.
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"We have met the enemy and he is us". Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession.

  1. 1. "W E HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US ." Advancing the conversation on the future of the communication profession. Neil Griffiths, ABC and Deborah Hinton December 2013
  2. 2. Copyright © 2013 by Neil Griffiths & Deborah Hinton
  3. 3. CONTENTS 1 EXECUTIVE OVERVIEW 2 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 3 INTRODUCTION 4 PURPOSE, METHOD AND FINDINGS 8 CONCLUSIONS 11 ABOUT THE AUTHORS 12 APPENDIX 1 – BACKGROUND & CONTEXT 13 APPENDIX 2 - THE SURVEY: INTRODUCTION, QUESTIONS AND RESULTS 67 APPENDIX 3 – RESEARCH METHODOLOGY 68 APPENDIX 4 – ARE THE RESULTS BIASED? WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US
  4. 4. EXECUTIVE OVERVIEW Our survey of over 200 communication professionals digs deeper into the findings from our earlier report. We wanted to understand why individual communication professionals were not taking action on their own behalf, despite strong agreement around a vision of leadership for their profession and their function. Our latest survey suggests that communication professionals are looking for leadership at the professional and functional levels before they’re willing to step forward as individuals. “We have… [indeed] …met the enemy and he is us.”1 But, our findings also give us a clear place to go as a profession and as functions, which allows us to reframe the conversation about the future of the communication profession and begin to take concrete action to strengthen our profession and the function starting now. 1 Walt Kelly, poster for the first Earth Day in April 1970, and subsequently in his Pogo comic strip. WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US 1
  5. 5. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Our thanks to the survey participants for sharing their thinking about the current state of and future possibilities for the profession. We thank Gail Cook Johnson, PhD for her early insight and input on the survey design. We also thank a small and growing network of supporters who encouraged us to keep going even when we doubted our next step, including: Maria Constantinescu, Mark Dollins, Sharon Hunter, Sean Trainor, Claire Watson, ABC, Anna Willey, ABC, and Amanda HamiltonAtwell, ABC. And, very special thanks to Michael Hinton and Doron Solomon. Besides generally cheering us on, they each contributed in a substantive way to this research: Michael for regular thought checks and input on the statistical side of the survey and Doron for support in editing, layout and technical advice. And finally, thanks to Pogo cartoonist, Walt Kelly, for the inspiration for our report’s title and its bittersweet implications for our profession, our function and our individual careers. WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US 2
  6. 6. INTRODUCTION When we reported on our 2012 research findings in Communication World [July 2013], we knew communication professionals strongly agreed with the leadership role for communications that CEOs described in the Arthur W. Page Society’s Authentic Enterprise [2007]. We also knew that those who responded to our survey painted a very consistent view of how the function and the profession would need to change to take on this new leadership role in our organizations. Specifically, they had told us that we needed to develop four leadership characteristics and move: FROM TO Deep understanding of communication and how it works Deep understanding of the business and where and how communications can best support its vision Siloed communication specialties [internal, external, media, marketing, etc.] A single integrated, strategic communication view Designing and implementing transactional events Supporting clients in building and sustaining key relationships Controlling Collaborative and facilitative But, despite this clear vision for the future and the strong aspiration for the profession and the function, as individual professionals they just didn’t seem to want to take on this leadership role2. This left us with one big question – why not? Is it because we don’t know or don’t believe that the opportunity to lead is there? Is it that we don’t have the skills? Or is it really that we just don’t have the will? Fair enough, not all of us aspire to leadership. But how can we achieve our aspirations for the profession and our function if we are not ready to lead as individual professionals? So, this past summer, we conducted a second survey, which we called ‘Digging Deeper’, to try and get a better understanding of what is stopping us. 2 See Appendix 1 for more on our earlier research. WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US 3
  7. 7. PURPOSE, METHOD AND FINDINGS The purpose of our survey was to get a deeper understanding of the four leadership characteristics that were described so vividly in our earlier research. Specifically, we wanted to know how close or how far away the profession, the function and individual professionals were to the leadership characteristics described so vividly in our first study. And, if we weren’t ‘there’, what it would take to get us there. As with our earlier survey, our hope was that the findings would generate constructive conversation about what the profession, our functions and each of us as individual communication professionals need to do to advance the profession and our careers. In June 2013 we surveyed people who identified themselves as communication professionals. We received 216 responses. The majority of respondents came from Western Europe, Canada and the United States [87%], though we did receive responses from Australia/New Zealand, Middle East and North Africa, Central America and Eastern Europe. For the most part, they worked in large organizations with over 1,000 employees [45%] or small ones with less than 25 employees [32%]. They came from a range of different types of organizations: corporations [39%] or consulting firms/pr/comms [19%], government/military [12%], or not for profit/NGO [12%]. Their primary areas of responsibilities were employee communication [36%], corporate communication [26%], marketing communication [12%], public relations [10%] and CEO/Executive [8%]. Almost two thirds [65%] of respondents had from 11 to 20 years of experience. The survey questions and full demographic breakdown is presented in Appendix 2. Appendix 3 shows the research methodology and Appendix 4 presents a discussion of the ‘statistical significance’ of what they told us. What we uncovered: We’ve got further to go than we thought. As a profession, in our functions and as individual professionals, we are not are not ‘there’ on any of the four leadership characteristics. And, although we know what we need to do to change to take on a leadership role in our organizations, we’re not necessarily doing it. Specifically, we found: 1. Deep understanding of the businesses we’re in and where and how communication can best support them. The profession is the furthest away from the desired leadership characteristic at 2.69 on our five-point scale. The function sits at 3.47 and individual professionals say that they are at 4.14. 2. A single integrated, strategic communication view. The profession is the furthest away from this leadership characteristic sitting at 2.48; the function at 3.09 and individual professionals say that they are at 3.96. 3. Supporting clients in building and sustaining key relationships. The profession is the furthest away from this leadership characteristic sitting at 3.48; WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US 4
  8. 8. the function at 3.89 and individual professionals say that they are strongest here at 4.30. 4. Collaborative and facilitative. The profession the furthest away from this leadership characteristic sitting at 2.48; the function at 3.09 and individual professionals are the closest at 3.96. An important pattern emerges from these results across all four of the desired leadership characteristics.: • The profession is the furthest away from being ‘there’, • Individual professionals are closest to being ‘there’, • The function sits squarely in the middle. In addition, as a profession, a function and as individual professionals, our findings suggest that we are closer to the desired leadership characteristics that are perhaps ‘softer’ – “building and sustaining relationships” and “being collaborative and facilitative” and further away from those that are ‘harder’ – “deep understanding of the ‘business’ and where and how communications can best support in achieving its vision” and “a single integrated, strategic communication view”. Revealingly, the leadership characteristic that needs the most development is “a single integrated, strategic communication view”. Despite the fact that our earlier survey suggested that individual respondents told us they didn’t feel they had what it takes to take to lead; in this survey they are telling us they’re doing fine! So, what do we need to do to develop the leadership characteristics? This was the part of the survey we were most interested in getting feedback on. What would it take for the profession, the function or the professional to develop the leadership characteristics? What we found was that the answer was different for the profession, the function and individual professionals. Here’s what respondents said: 1. Deep understanding of the businesses we’re in and where and how communication can best support them. The profession. The top three responses are: Mentoring [27%], Education [23%] and Coaching [19%]. In the open field comments for “education”, respondents told us that we are not recruiting people with the right skill sets into the profession. Some went as far as to suggest that we should recruit outside the profession. Others recommended changes to formal education: • Business programs need to include more communication courses; WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US 5
  9. 9. • Communication programs need to include more business courses; and more integrated, interdisciplinary and strategic thinking (not just topics like Internal Communication). The function. The top three responses are: Common Understanding and Will [25%], Training and Coaching [each at 18%]. In the open field comments for “training”, respondents referred to industry and business-specific training. The individual. The top three responses are: Understanding and Will [20%], Other [20%] and Easy Access to Resources [15%]. In the open field comments for “understanding and will” and “other” respondents referred to approaches that sounded suspiciously like access to resources: more opportunity to get out and learn about the business, access to subject matter experts, C-suite, as well as other teams. 2. Single, integrated strategic communications view. The profession. The top three responses are: Education [22%], Coaching [20%], and both Training and Mentoring [each at 19%]. In the open field comments for “education”, respondents say that there is a need for raising awareness on the importance of strategic thinking and, more specifically, building business strategy and business literacy skills. The function. The top responses are: Common Understanding and Will [37%] and Other [25%]. The open field comments for “other” suggest that: • • senior management and leadership support is essential to ensure a business focus and orientation. there’s a need for increasing collaboration within the function and between functions. The individual. The top three responses are: Other [28%], Understanding and Will [22%] and Easy Access to Resources [13%]. In the open field comments for “other”, respondents believe they need leadership and vision from within the function and outside. And, for “easy access to resources” they are looking for ongoing education, training and information in terms of the latest developments in the field, as well as access to senior leadership and plans. 3. Supporting clients in building and sustaining key relationships. The profession. The top three responses are: Coaching [32%], Mentoring [25%] and Common Understanding and Will [14%]. There were no open fields for comments on these responses. The function. The top three responses are: Common Understanding and Will [29%], Coaching [22%] and Mentoring [16%]. There were no open fields for comments on these responses. WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US 6
  10. 10. The individual. Individual professionals say they need Understanding and Will [36%] and Other [17%]. In the open field comments for “other” they say they need time, opportunities and discipline. 4. Collaborative and facilitative. The profession. The top three responses are: Coaching [26%], Common Understanding and Will [19%] and Mentoring [18%]. There are no open fields for comments on these responses. The function. The top three responses are: Common Understanding and Will [34%], Coaching [20%] and Other [12%]. The comments in the open field for “other” say the function would benefit from leadership in the function and the business. The individual. The top three responses are: Understanding and Will [26%], Other [26%], and Coaching [20%]. In the open field for “other”, comments focused on patience and teamwork. Clearly there are differences between the needs of the profession, the function and the individual professional, but there are also important consistencies within each of these three roles that provide insight about actions we could and should be taking. Specifically: • For the profession. Mentoring and coaching appeared in the top three responses across all four leadership characteristics. Training, however, only appeared in the top three for “a single integrated, strategic communication view”, where it was tied with mentoring. We need to rethink what and how we deliver in terms of professional development. Education appeared in the top three responses for the two ‘harder’ leadership characteristics – “deep understanding of the businesses we’re in and where and how communication can best support them” and “a single integrated, strategic communication view”. • For the function. Common understanding and will is the number one response for the function across all four leadership characteristics. Coaching appears again as a top development need in three of the four leadership characteristics. The open field comments on “other” point primarily to the need for leadership in the business and the function and collaboration within and between functions. • For the individual. As stated earlier, individual professionals reported that they had the least need for improvement on all four leadership characteristics. Understanding and will was in the top two responses across the four characteristics. It’s hard to interpret at the individual level and we did not provide open fields for comments on this one. But, when combined with the comments in the open field for “other ” (also in the top two responses across all four characteristics), there seems to be an idea that “understanding and will” comes from outside somewhere, which is quite curious. WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US 7
  11. 11. CONCLUSIONS We believe our findings are helping us get closer to discovering what we, as individual communication professionals, need to do to advance the profession and our careers. But, there are still questions to answer and implications to reflect and act upon: For the profession. Our findings suggest that we should be asking for more and different things from our professional associations to better support us in positioning the profession, the function and ourselves for the future. This is an idea that came out in our earlier work, but comes out even more strongly here. Specifically, our survey findings say that we should be: • Developing mentors and coaches to support learning more broadly rather than just delivering communication competency-based training. If we are developing and delivering training, then it should focus on business literacy, strategy and leadership skills. • Advocating for and influencing changes to university and college curricula to better support organizational communication. • Advocating for changes to organizational hiring practices for communications functions. • Finding ways to break down the natural functional silos that continue to be reflected in our professional organizations at the chapter, national and international level as a way of reflecting our desire to have “a single integrated, strategic communication view”. Questions for individual communication professionals: What can you do to influence your professional associations to: Design professional development programs that better suit your needs? Advocate for changes in curricula and hiring practices? Break down functional silos? For the function. Our second survey findings again echo those of our first. There’s a perceived lack of adequate functional leadership: communication professionals are looking for leaders who can connect the work of communication to the essential priorities of the organizations they are in, and build strong positive relationships across the executive level [fighting the good fight] and within their own teams [providing vision and action]. These are still hard economic times; we still have not fully recovered from the biggest recession since the 1930s. It’s not easy, but if the profession is to lead then functional leaders/visionaries are essential. Where and how we will find and/or develop them is a big question. WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US 8
  12. 12. Questions for individual communication professionals: What can you do to ensure more leadership from your function? What can you do to identify, develop and encourage functional leaders and executive visionaries in assuming leadership in your organization? For the individual. In ‘Digging Deeper’ respondents did answer some of the questions we had for individual professionals coming out of our first survey: • Do they have the experience, skills and abilities that are needed to operate in these future roles? Respondents said we’re not fully there, but we’re pretty darn close. • What do they need to get there? Respondents said understanding and will with a touch of leadership from the organization and the function. And finally, the biggie… • Are you willing to take responsibility for your own future? Respondents seem to be saying no; until and unless they see more leadership from their functions and their profession there’s nothing they can or want to do to change things. It appears that “we’ve seen the enemy and he is us.” Question for individual communication professionals: If you care about the profession, the function and your own professional future, what are you willing to do about it? WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US 9
  13. 13. So, where to from here? We started this journey believing that there’s an important opportunity for communication professionals to engage in discussion and exploration with one another to discover practical approaches for advancing the profession. Our latest survey suggests we’re looking for leadership at the professional and functional levels before we’re willing to step forward as individuals. Does this mean we’ve reached a stalemate? We don’t think so. We believe that if we are going to deliver what CEOs expect from us and that we have said we want, then we need to reframe the conversation about the future of the communication profession and refocus the debate on the role of our profession and our functions in the advancement of an agenda for communication professionals. Let’s change that conversation together – and fast. WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US 10
  14. 14. ABOUT THE AUTHORS The authors are communication professionals who are passionate and curious about what communication professionals do, why and how they do it, and how, as individuals and as a profession, they can get better. Neil Griffiths, ABC is Internal Communications Manager at Environmental Resources Management, the world’s largest consultancy in sustainability. As of December 2013, Neil is Chair of IABC Europe, Middle East & North Africa, and was named IABC’s Regional Leader of the Year in 2013. [http://uk.linkedin.com/in/negriff/] Deborah Hinton is Partner, Communication Strategy, Hinton : Communication matters in Montreal. She helps her clients create conditions for outstanding organizational performance and believes in the potential of organizations to deliver business results while creating great experiences for the people that work for them, and for the people and communities they serve. Deborah is VP Membership IABC/Montreal. She blogs regularly on communication and leadership. [www.hintonandco.com/blog and www.linkedin.com/in/deborahhinton] Disclaimer: This is an independent study and report. Neither author was or is a member of the Arthur W. Page society and neither played any part in the research, writing or promotion of The Authentic Enterprise. WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US 11
  15. 15. APPENDIX 1 – BACKGROUND & CONTEXT For those of you who haven’t been part of our journey until now, here’s a little background. It all started with two communication professionals – one in Montreal, Canada, the other in London, UK; one – a sole practitioner, the other a Corporate Communications professional in a global engineering giant; both with a sneaking feeling that the conversation on the future of the communication profession had been going around in circles. We’d been getting a lot of prescriptive advice about our future what we should do and how we should do it. Much of it, though, was personal and anecdotal; little based on research. And even if it was, the research rarely looked out to look in by asking our customers what they wanted from communication professionals. There was one exception: The Authentic Enterprise report, published by the Arthur W. Page Society, which asked CEOs what they expected from communication professionals. So we set about to test some of its conclusions. We found that despite agreement with the direction and conclusions, communication professionals are not, and may not be, ready for a new expanded leadership role. A standout response in the open fields was: “Communication professionals need to feel and become empowered to define their professional future.” Our earlier research report Where are we? Where should we be? What communication professionals are thinking was published on IABC Discovery. http://discovery.iabc.com/view.php?pid=2145#!] The findings were also published in an article, Your future. Your choice. CEOs have opened the door. Are you ready? in the July 2013 issue of CW Magazine. http://cw.iabc.com/communicationworld/july_2013?utm_content=buffer232cd&utm_source= buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer#pg15 In addition, Deborah was invited to write two guest blogs that summarized aspects of our findings: Communicators: Ready Or Not, the Time Has Come, Bulldog Reporter. November 2012 http://bit.ly/PGxsbQ If you want it, here it is. Come and get it!, LeaderCommunicator Blog, November 2012 http://bit.ly/1cDTgMz WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US 12
  16. 16. APPENDIX 2 - THE SURVEY: INTRODUCTION, QUESTIONS AND RESULTS INTRODUCTION This survey is intended to dig a little deeper into several important findings from a study we did last year and to gain insight into what we as a profession, in our functions and as professionals need to do to move from where we are to where we have said we want to be. The survey should take you less than 15 minutes to complete and we ask you to read through the background on the next page before you start. Your responses are completely confidential. Our objective with this research is to advance the conversation around the future of the communication profession and what it will take for us to create that future. Our hope is that this conversation will lead to concrete action. We'd be pleased to share what we learn. More info on that on the last page of the survey, so click through! QUESTIONS AND FINDINGS The questions and results are presented in the charts on the following page. WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US 13
  17. 17. APPENDIX 3 – RESEARCH METHODOLOGY The survey opened and we began promotion in June 2013 and remained open for four weeks. We targeted communication professionals [self-identified given the groups they belong to] over the four weeks of the survey, directly and indirectly through: • Deborah and Neil’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter networks. • Direct emails to selected people in our networks. • LinkedIn and online newsletter promotion by: ! ! IABC/Montreal ! • IABC International IABC UK Our professional contacts who forwarded links within their own networks. WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US 67
  18. 18. APPENDIX 4 – ARE THE RESULTS BIASED? By Michael Hinton, MA, Managing Director, Minerva’s Owl Consulting Economists The main potential problem affecting cost-efficient “convenience” surveys such as this one is the possibility that the results are biased. That is that they may not fairly represent the views of the people one wants to know about: in this case communication professionals. Apart from conducting a far more expensive kind of survey, such as a large random survey of all PR professionals, what can be done to minimize the possibility of bias? The answer is to design the survey to avoid the problem. Statisticians tell us that four main types of bias can be present when people are asked to volunteer to be participants in a survey: under-coverage bias, non-response bias, voluntary response bias, and measurement error bias. It is, I think, fair to say that it is not clear that these biases are present in this survey. Under-coverage bias can be said to exist if the survey inadequately represented important elements of the population of communication professional the authors wanted to survey. This might be the case if the survey method – announcement of the survey by internet through IABC outlets and the author’s networks on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter – acted in this manner. But this does not seem likely. Communication professionals today are heavy users of social media. Non-response bias exists if those who respond to the survey are systematically different from those who do not respond. Since the survey required a fair amount of time to complete it is likely that some bias of this sort is present. But it is not clear how much. Particularly since those that did respond were on average more senior, experienced communication professionals. Voluntary response bias exists because the respondents are self-selected. It is usually thought that self-selection means it is likely that the survey sample will reflect the views of people with very strong opinions. Again while it is likely that this bias is present it is not clear how the survey results are being distorted - particularly since the strong opinion selfselection is most likely to bring to the survey is that the respondents are those who care most about the health and future of the profession. Measurement error can be introduced if the survey questions are written in ways that systematically favour a particular response, or do not promise confidentiality and deal with questions dealing with illegal actions or socially frowned on behaviour. Since participants were promised confidentiality and leading questions do not appear to mar the design of the survey, it does not appear that measurement error is likely to be biasing the results. Finally, because this survey is not based on a random sampling methodology it is not possible to talk about the possibility of sampling bias. This said it is not clear however that the results obtained are misleading because of the number of people responding are small. In conclusion, the survey was a low-cost “convenience” survey in which people volunteered to participate rather than being randomly selected. In my view the results do not appear to be clearly biased except in so far as they may most strongly reflect the views of the authors’ networks that consist largely of communication professionals of long experience who work largely in Canada, Western Europe, or the United States. WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US 68

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